[Reader-list] Question Time India in Srinagar...

abir bazaz abirbazaz at rediffmail.com
Thu Aug 21 23:58:18 IST 2003

from GK
By Shafa'at Rasool

Srinagar, Aug 20: The sher-i-Kashmir international conference center in Srinagar Wednesday witnessed something which it is not accustomed to. Being otherwise a favourite spot for mainstream politicians, it was time for some blunt plain-speak as the center reverberated with demands for right to self determination.

The occasion was the recording of BBC’s talk show Question Time India and those on the panel were chief minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed, National Conference president and member of Parliament Umar Abdullah, separatist leader Sajjad Lone, state president of BJP Nirmal Singh and vice chancellor Jammu university, Amitabh Mattoo.

A military bunker and shikaras hovering in Dal waters provided a fitting background to the occasion where Kashmir problem, its causes, the present situation and possible solutions were discussed. But what reminded one and all of what is referred to as the basic reality of Kashmir was the unanimous assertion of the right of the people of Jammu and Kashmir to decide their future by the 250 strong audience comprising of educated Kashmiri youth.

While the politicians were, true to their creed, largely ambiguous in identifying the genesis of the problem and suggesting a solution, the audience had no hesitation to hold the central government responsible for the mess and self determination being a viable democratic solution. 

As the show was conducted by an international media organisation and not by some official agency, Mufti Muhammad Sayeed and Umar Abdullah were in for some surprise for the participants felt uninhibited to speak their heart out. Mufti and Umar were told that they didn’t represent the people of Kashmir and their aspirations. 

"What does your `healing touch’ and `peace with dignity’ mean to a common Kashmiri other than a mere deceptive slogan to fool the world?" A youth asked the chief minister.

Taking everyone by surprise, the chief minister said the local elements were still the backbone of militancy in the state. 

"Though the majority of militants active in the state at present are outsiders but it is a fact that local youth still form the backbone that sustains militancy here," Mufti said adding the internal dimension of the Kashmir problem needed to be addressed. 

"You have sensitized a 10 kilometer area to deceive the international community. Go to the countryside and you will find no change in the situation. People are being victimized by security forces as before," Sajjad Lone told the chief minister when the latter said the situation was changing for better and the people should bury the past to look towards future.

"Do you want us to forget our 80 thousand dead? ...There is still an overwhelmimg passion for freedom and the dust won’t settle untill the political aspirations of Kashmiris are taken into account," Lone said.

Tail piece: All through the programme numerous shikaras moving in Dal waters filled the background. But there was much more than met the eye. A keen observation revealed that there were only two shikaras that had been assigned the job to move to and fro to decorate the scene, God knows by whom.

The programme is scheduled to be telecast on BBC World on 22nd August, Friday, at 10 pm. 

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